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2017 GMC Savana 2500: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2017

With all of its competitors introduced or redesigned within the past few years, the 2017 GMC Savana 2500 is practically a fossil. Although tweaked and updated a bit, it's essentially the same full-size van that was introduced back in the mid-1990s. As a result, it's less efficient, spacious and maneuverable than rival vans. A new diesel 4-cylinder engine helps for 2017, but sadly doesn't move the needle that much.

We'll go into additional reasons below, but essentially, we would recommend considering one of those other full-size vans, including the Ford Transit and RAM Promaster, along with smaller commercial vans like the Ford Transit Connect, RAM Promaster City and the Nissan NV200/Chevrolet City Express twins. Not only are they all more modern than the Savana, more important, they'll do the job much better.

 What's New for 2017?

The Savana's optional diesel engine now has half as many cylinders. Its 4-cylinder turbodiesel is meant for improved fuel economy rather than enhanced, hauling-friendly torque.

 What We Like

Affordability; large covered cargo area; available 4-cylinder turbodiesel

 What We Don't

Hasn't been completely redesigned since the 1990s; low roof with no higher option; Exxon Valdez thirst; sloppy driving dynamics

 How Much?

$30,700-$32,600

 Fuel Economy

Three engines are offered. Base-level Savana models come standard with a 4.8-liter V8, which makes 285 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic is standard. The Environmental Protection Agency hadn't listed fuel economy estimates for 2017 at the time of this writing, but for 2016, this engine returned 11 miles per gallon in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. The 4.8-liter V8 will tow 7,400 pounds as a cargo van or 6,700 pounds as a passenger van.

Extra power comes from an optional 340-hp 6.0-liter V8, which enables an increased towing capacity of up to 10,000 pounds in cargo form or 9,800 pounds as a passenger van. The passenger version returns an EPA-estimated 11 miles per gallon city, 16 mpg hwy and 13 mpg combined.

New for 2017, the optional turbodiesel engine is now a 2.8-liter 4-cylinder unit. It comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission. It produces 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and although official fuel economy estimates haven't been announced, expect them to be much better than the gasoline engines.

 Standard Features & Options

Like its Chevrolet Express mechanical twin, the 2017 GMC Savana 2500 is offered in two distinct models, including a cargo van with no rear seats and a passenger van with seats. Cargo models come in only one trim, while the Savana Passenger is separated into LS and LT models.

Choose the Savana 2500 Cargo ($30,700), and you should expect only the basics. That means vinyl seating, manual air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary port and little else. That's right, no CD player, no OnStar system and no power accessories. With that said, drivers who want those items can order them from the options list.

Step up to a Savana LS ($34,000), and you add a few more items. Most notably, that includes 12-passenger seating, but the Savana LS also adds power door locks, cruise control and standard Wi-Fi to the Cargo model's basic equipment list. Standard seating capacity is 12 in a 2-3-3-4 arrangement. The longer 3500 Savana, reviewed separately, can seat 15.

Topping the Savana range is the LT ($36,000), which adds cloth upholstery, a compass, remote keyless entry, rear air conditioning and exterior chrome accents.

In addition to standard equipment, GMC offers a long list of options. They range from simple items, such as power mirrors and windows, to upscale features, such as a backup camera, an IntelliLink touchscreen and rear park assist. Shoppers can also choose between rear- and all-wheel drive, and must decide which of the van's three engines they'd prefer.

 Safety

Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-side airbags and side-curtain airbags that cover the first three rows. A backup camera and rear parking sensors aid are options.

The Savana has not underdone third-party crash testing.

 Behind the Wheel

With a 135-inch wheelbase and 2-stage, multileaf rear springs, the Savana is not designed for maneuverability or comfort. Ponderous proportions typically make for ponderous handling, and in this regard, the Savana delivers as expected. Perhaps you would think this would be par for the course when it comes to cargo vans, but the Savana's substantially more modern competitors are easier to park and negotiate tighter spaces.

The Savana's ancient design is also a detriment in terms of interior space. It only has one roof height available and it's considerably lower than the majority of its competitors -- unlike those, there's no way you'll be standing upright in a Savana. Seat comfort and passenger space are also comparatively poor. In short, rival vans will make your job easier and/or your passenger's trip nicer.

 Other Cars to Consider

2017 Ford Transit -- Ford's new full-size van is offered in cargo and passenger configurations. Unlike the Savana, it boasts several fuel-efficient engine choices, modern driving dynamics, tall roof heights and high-tech optional extras.

2017 RAM ProMaster -- Ram's latest take on the full-size van offers huge capability, whether you're hauling people or large items. With diesel engines and European design, fuel economy is also much better than the Savana's figures.

2017 Nissan NV -- Most like the Savana in purpose, the truck-based Express offers better driving dynamics, more body style choices and a more modern design.

Used Mercedes-Benz Sprinter -- The Sprinter offers impressive capability and efficiency in a considerably more modern package than the Savana 2500, but it's also more expensive. You can consider a used model, keeping in mind that it was also sold as the Freightliner Sprinter.

 Autotrader's Advice

We'd shop the competition, but if we had to choose a Savana, we'd opt for an entry-level LS or Cargo model with sparse options. As rivals have improved dramatically, affordability is the Savana's last major selling point.

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Certified 2017 GMC Savana 2500
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Used 2017 GMC Savana 2500
Used 2017 GMC Savana 2500
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 GMC Savana 2500: New Car Review - Autotrader